Felix peeled off her clothes and collapsed onto Ryan's bed, lulled by the sound of his ceiling fan humming overhead. Ryan couldn't wait to escape into his bathroom, and she listened to the whoosh of the shower as she imagined him naked under the spray. Their trip to Alabama turned out to be like a weekend in the tropics, without the benefit of a refreshing waterfall to remove the sweat and stink. If she wasn't so exhausted, she would have showered with him. She did owe him, after all.
She had barely drifted off when the scent of Italian sausage wafted down the hall, enticing her out of bed. Ryan stood at the counter, spooning spaghetti onto two plates, and he greeted her with a broad smile, making a show of scanning her from top to tail.She hadn't bothered to put on sweatpants and wandered into the kitchen in her tee shirt and panties.
"Now I know how to get you out of bed," he said. "Just tell me how to get you into it."
"Same strategy. I love me some Italian sausage." Felix grinned as she sat at the table and let Ryan serve her. She had been severely sideswiped, and he had been acting like he was the cause of it.
"I don't know about you, but I appreciate the Chicago summers now that I've experienced Alabama in July," Felix said, keeping the conversation on the benign side.
"I could never live in the south," he admitted. "Florida is supposed to be worse."
"Speaking of Florida, I still can't think of that dammed Miami Dolphin's quarterback."
"Do you want me to tell you?"
"Don't you dare. I'll figure it out, even if it takes me all week."
Ryan pushed spaghetti around on his plate like it was a poisonous spider. "I'm really sorry about your house, Felix. I'll help you replace everything you lost."
She stared at him, wondering how a guy could be so considerate. What had she been doing with Andy when she could have had someone like Ryan? "You don't have to do that. Most of the stuff that mattered is irreplaceable anyway." Her breath caught, allowing a small sob to escape. "Oh, God. How could I be so stupid?" She bolted from her chair and ran down the hall to Ryan's bedroom, feeling more like a damsel than ever.
"Fuck." She heard Ryan curse, and a moment later, he was crawling into bed next to her. "Felix, I'm sorry. I'm a jerk for bringing that up."
"Don't, Ryan. You keep trying to take responsibility for the mess I've made, and I've barely given anything in return. I'm sure a full confession would make your job a lot easier."
"To be honest, Felix, we've got a good amount of evidence against these assholes, but if you revealed something that led us directly to them we could get you into the witness protection program and you wouldn't have to hide anymore."
"So, I would have to rat someone out in order to get protection from the FBI?"
"That's basically how it works, and if you had anything to do with the criminal activity, you could plea bargain and get your sentence reduced or absolved, especially if your confession led to an arrest."
Felix sat up, wiping her eyes with her shirt. "Would I have to appear in court and face the assholes?"
Ryan nodded reluctantly. "If we're lucky, you'll only have to face them once."
The thought of testifying against Andy in court made her stomach hurt. Couldn't the feds relocate her to some remote place in Slovania or Alaska? If only her sister were around to ask for advice. Plastering a determined expression on her face, Felix grabbed Ryan's hand and hauled him back to the dining room. After dinner, he suggested they watch a comedy on cable, and before she knew it, the sound of temple bells were waking her up.
Felix watched Ryan crawl out of bed and shuffle to the bathroom, looking tired as hell. She felt the same, but she forced herself up and into the kitchen. It was Monday morning, and Ryan was probably expected at the office to report his findings from their Alabama adventure. She whipped up a batch of French toast and had it waiting on the table when he joined her.
"Damn, it smells good out here." His skin held the clean scent of manly soap as he kissed Felix on the forehead. She didn't mind that he chose her forehead instead of her lips. Somehow, the gesture felt more intimate, like he had grown accustomed to having her around. "French toast? I didn't realize I had syrup."
"You don't, but you have jelly. I've always loved jelly on my French toast."
He smiled. "Sounds intriguing. I'll try anything once."
They slipped easily into a morning routine, and Felix noticed how much she enjoyed seeing Ryan smile. That simple gesture never failed to incite a rush of chills in her, and she cursed herself for never noticing it when they were neighbors. He must have thought she was a total weirdo. She still felt like a weirdo.
"I shouldn't have to spend much time at the office," he said. "So, you won't be alone more than a few hours. I'll probably swing by the gym on my way home."
"The gym? I should have guessed you worked out." She made a point to stare across the table at his arms, which looked especially toned inside his short-sleeved shirt.
"Not so much recently. I let work derail my routine and lost my enthusiasm for a while, but I found it again. It helps when you have a source of motivation." He looked directly at her as he spoke, and Felix grinned shyly. He finished his breakfast and carried his plate to the sink. "I'm sure I don't have to remind you not to leave the apartment while I'm gone."
"Yes, sir." Felix pushed away from the table and joined him. There was something weighing on her mind, and she needed to clear it before Ryan left. "Will you have to report what we found on the flash drive?"
Ryan hunched over the sink, taking his time to turn around. When he did, his lips were pinched. "I'll have to turn in the evidence, of course, but I won't be able to tell them the code is connected to Andy without revealing who helped me decipher it. They know I don't have a clue about that shit."
She let go of a long sigh, making no effort to hide it. Ryan had bent over backward to make sure she stayed safe, and she didn't want him to risk his job by withholding evidence. "I want you to tell them I helped you. I'm ready to reveal my sources. I don't want you to play babysitter anymore. You need your life back as much as I do."
Ryan slid his arm around Felix's back and pulled her close, his fingers grazing the top of her lace panties. "Are you sure about this, Felix? I don't want you to do this for me."
"I'm sure. I'll even come down to the office with you and fill out the necessary paperwork."
"No. One of your buddies may be staking out the building to see if you run to the FBI. We'll handle it some other way." Ryan planted a kiss on her mouth while his fingers dipped inside her panties, gliding over her ass. When he broke away, his eyes were dilated and he had to adjust himself. "I'm going to need to carry an ice pack with me. All I have to do is think about you and I'm hard."
Despite the fact that Felix wanted to have a nice pleasant nervous breakdown in the middle of the apartment, she offered him a flattered smile, and Ryan left with a grin on his face. Felix cleaned up the breakfast dishes, distracting her mind from the frightening images of bright orange prison uniforms and bulletproof glass. The only image keeping her out of the fetal position was Ryan holding her and telling her everything was going to be all right, but she knew he didn't have that kind of power. Only a judge could decide whether her crimes were minor enough to give her a chance at a new life, or serious enough to put her behind bars.
PLAYLIST SONG: Mr. Nice Watch by J. Cole (feat Jay Z)
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Inked and DangerousRomance
Felicity Taylor has a beautiful mind and a future with promise, until something happens to blow it all to hell. How does she respond? She gets inked, buys a Harley, and teams up with a bunch of crooks, not necessarily in that order. Ryan Clark is a...